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Aomar Boum

Moroccan troubadour poet and Sufi figure, was born in 1506 in the village of Tit near the city of Azemmour. He is also known as al-Shaykh Abu Zayd Abderrahman al-Majdoub Ibn Ayyad Ibn Yaacub Ibn Salama Ibn Khashan al-Sanhaji al-Dukkali and as al-Majdoub; his contemporaries nicknamed him El Majdoub. He moved with his father to Meknès in 1508 His father was a renowned Sufi trained by al Shaykh Ibrahim Afham al Zarhuni a disciple of al Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq Zarruq was a North African Sufi who lived through the fifteenth century Marinid religious turmoil He called for new interpretations of Islam based on juridical sainthood that stressed religious form Accordingly Zarruq asked Sufi authorities of Fez to avoid opportunistic notions of jihad that scapegoat some Muslims in order to increase the accusers political status Abderrahman El Majdoub was influenced indirectly by some of Zarruq s ideas regarding the nature ...

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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...

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Allen J. Fromherz

second Moroccan caliph of the Almohad (Muʾminid) dynasty (r. 1163–1184), was a great patron of philosophy and architecture, a defensive leader, and statesman. The beginning of his reign was rocked by conflict over succession. His father, ʿAbd al-Muʾmin, had designated Muhammad, the older brother of a different mother as his successor. Muhammad was in power from a few weeks to a few months. The sources differ on the exact length of his reign.

However it was clear from the beginning that Muhmmad did not have the ambition or the ability to lead the vast administrative and military apparatus his father had created ʿAbu Yaʿqub Yusuf had the support of a powerful woman his mother It seems this formidable woman and her other son the powerful vizier Abu Hafs ʿUmar conspired to elevate ʿAbu Yaʿqub Yusuf as caliph ʿUmar claimed that the caliph ʿAbd al Muʾmin had declared to him ...

Article

Stephen Cory

Sufi leader who has been referred to as “the Junayd of the West,” played an important role in the early development of Sufism within North Africa. One of his disciples, ʿAbd al-Salam ibn Mashish, was later the spiritual master for Abu al-Hasan al-Shadili, founder of one of the most influential North African Sufi movements.

Abu Madyan was born in the town of Cantillana near Seville in Muslim Spain He lost his parents early in life and was raised by his older brothers who regularly mistreated him The Moroccan biographer al Tadili d 1229 30 included biographical comments from Abu Madyan s writings such as the shaykh s explanation of how he finally escaped from the control of his brothers Abu Madyan relates that he fled from his home only to be captured by a brother who intended to kill him because of his many escape attempts His brother attacked him ...

Article

Ness Creighton

Christian saint, North African–born abbot active in England, was a well-known scholar and the abbot of St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, England. Another form of his name is “Hadrian.”

According to the medieval English writer the Venerable Bede Adrian was a Berber native from a Greek speaking family in North Africa likely in Libya Cyrenaica who had fled the Arab invasions into the region when he was about ten years of age evacuating to Naples which was then controlled by the Byzantine Empire At an unknown age though still quite young Adrian joined one of the Benedictine monasteries in the area and would eventually become abbot of a monastery near Naples called Monasterium Hiridanum also given as Niridanum and both may be errors for Nisidanum the Niridian monastery on the Isle of Nisida in the Bay of Naples Bede describes Adrian as being by nation an African well versed in ...

Article

philosopher, pioneer of Islamic reformist thought, pan-Islamic nationalist as well as a staunch opponent of British penetration in the East, also known as al-Asadaabadi and al-Husayni, Afghani, was born in October/November 1839 in the Iranian village of Asadaabad. However, he endeavored to hide his origins so as to conceal his Shiite identity. It was with this in mind that he assumed the surname al-Afghani (of Afghan origin).

His father, Sayyid Safdar, is said to have been a modest farmer, but a learned Muslim. From the age of five to ten, Afghani was apparently educated at home, focusing on Arabic and the Qurʾan. Thereafter, he was sent to school in Qazvin and later Tehran, where he received the standard Shiite education.

After several years of study in the holy city of Najaf, Afghani moved to India in approximately 1855 where he first encountered British colonialism By the time he reached ...

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Jeremy Rich

Roman Catholic cardinal from the Ivory Coast, was born in the Ivoirian town of Monga on 2 March 1926. At the age of six, he received his baptism and began his education at a Catholic mission school in the town of Menni. Agré entered a Catholic seminary school in Bingerville in 1941 and remained there until 1948. He then attended seminary at the Beninese city of Ouidah from 1958 until his ordination as a Catholic priest on 20 July 1953. From his ordination to 1965, he was a priest in the town of Dabou. Agré then joined the teaching staff at the Bingerville seminary he had once attended and served there from 1956 to 1957. From 1957 to 1960 Agré studied canon law at the Pontifical Urbanian University and he graduated with a doctorate His return to Côte d Ivoire coincided with the country ...

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Jeremy Rich

Anglicanarchbishop, was born on 27 January 1944 in Maga Adeniregun a village near the Nigerian city of Abeokuta Akinola s father Ttitus Oke Akinola a poor farmer and hunter died when the boy was just four years old Janet Amoke Oyedele his mother lost two children in infancy before Akinola s birth Akinola s maternal uncle Soge agreed to help raise the child as his mother s trading could not support the entire family Soge began Akinola s training as a carpenter although he did attend primary school at the same time Around the age of fourteen Akinola then joined the business of his paternal uncle Gabriel Faneye Oyedele since he no longer could afford the cost of attending school This relationship ultimately did not work out Frustrated Akinola went back to carpentry and moved to the Nigerian capital Lagos He has claimed that he barely survived ...

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Jeremy Rich

Congolese evangelist and translator was born in Gombe a village inhabited by Kakwa speaking clans in the northeastern corner of the modern day Democratic Republic of Congo This community suffered greatly from slave raids launched by Zande chieftains like Zémio and Mopoï living to their north in the late nineteenth century However the threat of northern raiders was hardly the only challenge for the young boy His name Akudri signified one who waited since he was born after his mother was pregnant for more than nine months He also bore his father s name Dada which means one who has no family This would indeed be Akudri s own fate since an epidemic of meningitis killed his parents and all his siblings when he was very young The boy barely survived himself A grave was dug to prepare for his funeral by other people in the village but he managed ...

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Robert Baum

Senegalese prophetess was born in the southwestern Senegalese township of Kabrousse a member of the Diola ethnic group Today the Diola number approximately six hundred thousand people primarily in Senegal but there are significant communities in Gambia and Guinea Bissau Generally the Diola are considered the best wet rice farmers in West Africa though they have been increasingly troubled by droughts since the 1930s Although many Diola are Muslim or Catholic in their primary religious affiliation they include the largest number of adherents of an indigenous African religion in the Senegambia region Before the colonial occupation by the French British and Portuguese the Diola had a tradition of direct revelation from the supreme being but it was limited to male prophetic leaders Shortly after colonization in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth women prophets began to gain influence especially among the southern ...

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Eric Fournier

Christian bishop. What we know about Alypius of Thagaste comes mainly from Augustine’s Confessions and Letters Born into a curial family in the Roman town of Thagaste present day Souk Ahras Algeria in the province of Numidia Alypius whose name seems to indicate Greek origins was younger than Augustine born in 354 CE Augustine was also Alypius s teacher first in Thagaste around 374 376 then in Carthage around 380 But Alypius was soon captivated by the Roman games the gladiators and the chariot races in particular and stopped attending Augustine s lessons because of an undisclosed argument between his father and his teacher Alypius quickly resumed attending despite his father s injunction however and one day as he entered the classroom Augustine used the example of someone attending the games to make a point which convinced Alypius to change his ways Among the group of students who studied ...

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Stacey Graham

is widely considered the first anchoritic monk to be influential throughout the Christian Mediterranean world. The Life of Anthony, written by Alexandrian bishop Athanasius (d. 373 CE), became a model both for late antique hagiography and for the anchoritic lifestyle that subsequently flourished in the eastern Roman Empire. Anthony’s fame also had a significant impact on the spread of monasticism in the western Roman Empire, where the Life was read by such patristic writers as Jerome and Augustine.

The main source for Anthony’s life is Athanasius’s Life of Anthony written in Greek between the years 356 and 362 The influence of this work on the genre of Christian hagiography cannot be overestimated It was quickly translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch as well as into Coptic Arabic Syriac and other languages of the eastern empire Jerome was directly inspired by it to write the first hagiographies in ...

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Matthew Kustenbauder

a Luo woman, helped to found and lead two African-initiated churches. The third of four children, Aoko was born in July 1943 in the town of Awasi, nineteen miles east of Kisumu in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Her educational background is uncertain. In interviews she called herself “uneducated” and claimed to know neither Kiswahili nor English, suggesting that she did not attend school beyond the primary level. Young Aoko was winsome by all accounts—“photogenic,” “tall with a smooth blackness,” and a “beautiful well-proportioned face” (Dirven, 1970, p. 126).

Against Aoko’s wishes not to marry, in 1957 her conservative father arranged a marriage to Simeo Owiti, a Catholic friend from Njoro near Nakuru. Three years later, the couple relocated south of the Kenya border to Bugire in the North Mara district of Tanganyika. Here, Aoko attended Tatwe a Catholic mission run by the Maryknoll fathers where she learned the catechism ...

Article

Chima Anyadike

Nigerian Roman Catholic cardinal, was born on 1 November 1932 to Arinze Nwankwu later baptized Joseph and Bernadette Ekwoanya in the rural town of Eziowelle in southeastern Nigeria Of humble beginnings he was in his early years raised in the Igbo traditional religious system until he was nine when he was baptized into the Catholic church by Father Michael Iwene Tansi the first and only Nigerian to date to be canonized by the church As a teacher and parish priest Father Tansi could not but notice that the young Arinze was humble hardworking and intelligent since he came out in the first position in his class examinations Arinze s aspiration to priesthood was largely a result of Father Tansi s influence and interest in him His father was however initially opposed to that aspiration As a cardinal Arinze still remembers the terms of that opposition You will not become ...

Article

Sonia Abun-Nasr

pastor and missionary, was born around 1834 in Akuropon, the capital of Akuapem, north of Accra in present-day Ghana. The son of Owusu Akyem, a chief of the royal Asona clan, he possessed high social status but was excluded from succession to political posts because of the matrilineal structure of Akan societies. He shared this fate with all so-called Akan princes, who were among the first inhabitants of the Gold Coast to convert to Christianity and receive a European education, thereby creating a role for themselves as a new elitist avant-garde in precolonial Ghanaian societies.

From childhood, Asante’s life was intertwined with the activities of the protestant Basel Mission, forerunner of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, which established itself in Akuapem during the 1830s. He was one of the first pupils to enter the mission school in Akuropon in 1844 and was baptized David at Christmas 1847 again as ...

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Stacey Graham

bishop and patriarch of Alexandria, theologian, author, and doctor of the Church, is significant for his staunch opposition to Arianism, his prolific theological works, and his exile-ridden episcopate during a tumultuous time for Church and imperial politics. His most influential work is the seminal hagiography of Western monasticism, Life of Anthony.

Athanasius was born in Alexandria Egypt probably in the year 296 though possibly as late as 300 At an early age he came to the attention of Alexander the patriarch of Alexandria who ordained him as a priest and brought him into the patriarch s service Alexandria in the fourth century cultivated a mixture of intellectual philosophical and religious schools of thought from its long standing pagan Jewish and Christian communities The city was economically vital as the main grain supplier for the imperial capital at Constantinople and it ranked third among the four patriarchates in the early ...

Article

Louis Munoz

Augustine of Hippo was born in Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria) in 354 and died almost seventy-six years later in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria) in 429 on the Mediterranean coast. Only four of his seventy-five years were spent outside Northern Africa. However, those few years would influence considerably his thought and his work.

Augustine s Africa had been part of Rome s empire since the destruction of Carthage five hundred years before his birth The language of business and culture throughout Roman Africa was Latin Yet some distinctly African character continued to mark life in the province Some non Latin speech either the Berber tongue of the desert or Punic which ancient Carthaginians had spoken continued to be heard The dominant religion of Africa had become Christianity a religion opposed to the traditions of old Rome but that could not have spread without the unity that Rome had brought ...

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James J. O'Donnell

Christian bishop and theologian, was born Aurelius Augustinus on 13 November 354 CE in Tagaste (mod. Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa, the son of Patricius and Monnica. The names of father and son are marked by emphatic affiliation with Rome (echoing the imperial title of Augustus and the high dignity of “patrician”), while the mother’s name echoes the traditional Punic culture of Africa and one of its leading deities. Augustine died as bishop of Hippo Regius (mod. Annaba, Algeria) on 28 August 430. He never ceased to surprise his contemporaries, and he has astonished many more to this day.

As the older son in a family of some social pretensions but limited resources Augustine should have grown to manhood as a country squire of narrow horizons But his parents were ambitious and found the money from an influential friend to send him away for education He studied first at ...

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Alessandra Vianello

charismatic Islamic leader whose influence spread from Somalia to the whole of East Africa and beyond. His full name was Aways Mohammed al-Qadiri.

He was born in Brava a coastal town in Southern Somalia the son of Mohammed Mahadh Bashir and Faduma Barow The family had humble origins some Italian sources claim that the father or one of his immediate forebears had been a freedman of the Tunni the Somali clan settled in and around Brava In the course of his life Sheikh Aways married several times Five of his wives Bay Aliow bint Bobo Doyo bint Mahadh Abdallah Amo bint Bana Tahir Bora Fatima bint Mohammed Muhyiddin and Hawa Shego are mentioned in the Civil Register of the Court of Brava Of his children a daughter Dede was immortalized in verse by the judge and scholar Abd al Aziz al Amawi who probably married her and a son Shaʾir ...

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Christine D. Baker

fifth Fatimid caliph of Egypt, was the first of the Fatimid caliphs to begin his rule in the newly founded Fatimid capital in Cairo. Born in Mahdiyya in North Africa, he traveled to Cairo in 974 with the Fatimid court when his father, the fourth Fatimid Caliph al-Muʿizz, moved the Fatimid capital from the Maghrib to Egypt. His full name was Al-ʿAziz billah, Nizar Abu Mansur.

Al-ʿAziz became the Fatimid caliph in 975 but, as the third son of al-Muʿizz, his succession was far from assumed. Al-Muʿizz’s oldest son, Tamim, had been passed over for the succession because he was suspected of intriguing against his father with dissident members of the Fatimid court. Al-Muʿizz’s second son, ʿAbdullah, was the favored heir. But ʿAbdullah died unexpectedly in 975 and al-Muʿizz formally recognized al-ʿAziz as his successor. Al-ʿAziz came to power in December 975 when he gave the khutba Friday sermon ...